Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 45

Top Russian and Chinese security officials have reiterated earlier pledges to develop bilateral cooperation. They also agreed to hold an unprecedented security drill in Southern Russia, the region that includes Chechnya and other volatile North Caucasus republics. “We have made plans to conduct exercises in spring 2007 in [Russia’s] Southern Federal District,” Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev announced on March 2.

The exercises are due to involve Special Forces from China’s Public Security Ministry and Russia’s Interior Ministry, as well as Russian Interior Ministry Forces. “We will develop skills for cooperation in accomplishing objectives to counter the threat of terrorism,” Nurgaliyev said, adding that the exercises would be large in scale.

Nurgaliyev traveled to China March 1-5 for talks with the Chinese Ministry of Public Security on law-enforcement issues. Zhou Yongkang, Chinese state councilor and minister of public security, met Nurgaliyev in Beijing. At the end of their discussions on March 2, they signed an agreement on forming a joint task force for cooperation to combat trans-border crime along with other draft agreements. The task force is expected to meet for the first time in the third quarter of this year.

Nurgaliyev said positive results in cooperation with China had already been achieved “primarily in combating trans-border crime,” and that cooperation was underway between Russia’s Far East and Siberian regions and the neighboring Chinese provinces. Russian and Chinese law-enforcement agencies are working together to detain criminals, and to combat smugglers illegally funneling natural resources from Russia to China, he said (RIA-Novosti, March 2).

Nurgaliyev pledged to boost joint work “to uncover terrorist groups and their sources of funding, as well as to exchange information and latest technologies to prevent terrorist acts.” He added, “Successful development of bilateral trade ties also attracts trans-border criminal groups,” noting that the smuggling of consumer goods, logs, and seafood remains a matter of concern (RIA-Novosti, March 2).

Nurgaliyev also met with Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong, who said the visit would “provide a boost to bilateral cooperation in law enforcement.” China appreciated Russia’s condemnation of Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian’s move to close the “National Unification Council (NUC),” Zeng told Nurgaliyev. He said China highly appreciates Russia’s constant adherence to the one-China principle and opposition to “Taiwan independence.” Zeng also said it is beneficial for both sides to enhance cooperation in anti-terrorism, law-enforcement, and security (Xinhua, March 2).

Nurgaliyev’s trip came as the latest in a recent series of bilateral security exchanges. In April 2005, Yevgeny Yakovlev, deputy head of the criminal investigation department of the Russian Interior Ministry, visited China and discussed bilateral cooperation. He reportedly agreed to create joint investigation teams to probe criminal cases of mutual concern (Interfax, April 29, 2005).

Russia and China also cooperate in security personnel training. In 2005 alone, 39 Chinese security officers, including 14 heads of anti-terrorism units, were trained in Russia, according to the Russian Interior Ministry (RIA-Novosti, March 1).

Both countries have also moved to revive ties between their special services. In December 2002 officials from the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security met in Chita to discuss bilateral cooperation. It was the first encounter between the two security agencies in 40 years.

Russia and China are leading members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional security and economic forum founded in Shanghai in July 2001 along with the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The SCO opened an anti-terrorism center in Shanghai in 2003. Russia and China held their first joint military exercises in August 2005.

Bilateral security ties are seen as a manifestation of a broader partnership, officially touted as “strategic.” Russia and China have developed a new pattern of bilateral relations featuring a mature, trustworthy, and reliable partnership, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Xinhua. Russia is not worried about the “peaceful rise of China,” which, in Russia’s view, provides an opportunity for expanding cooperation and promoting growth in both countries, he said.

“Russia values cooperation with China on international issues, in particular UN reform, arms control, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and ensuring the security of adjacent regions for the two countries,” he said. Lavrov also said that the SCO had developed into a strong group that can safeguard its own interests and regional security and stability. The SCO has advocated new forms of international cooperation in the fight against terrorism and other issues, he said (Xinhua, February 28).

It remains to be seen whether the upcoming joint counter-terrorism drill near Chechnya could help Moscow stabilize the volatile North Caucasus region. Meanwhile, vague talk of “ensuring the security of adjacent regions” is understood to have potential repercussions for Central Asia, where the Chinese could seek Russian assistance to deal with the sizable Uighur diaspora there.